First Week Highlights

I just finished the first week of school and looking back, it was one of my favorite starts to the year. Normally I’m not satisfied with my first day of school activities and either feel that they’re too cheesy or too boring. This year, however, I finally feel really happy with how the first day went because I had a high level of engagement from my students and the rest of the week followed in the same way. So, to recap the week, here are a few highlights, including many protocols for certain activities that can be used throughout the year and not just the first days of school!

Monday (first day of school part 1): After scouring the internet for great first day of school activities, I was so excited to see that my favorite blogger started school a week before me…so I could thankfully steal one of her brilliant ideas!! I used her idea of having students complete a “quiz” about me as they entered the room. Most of them did not know any of the answers, but I brought in some hints like a water bottle from Trinity University which was the answer to the first question. So, looking around the room helped students complete the quiz and familiarize themselves with the classroom. After about five minutes, we checked the quiz. I realized they were all so much more engaged in learning about me because they wanted to be right (and win a prize) as opposed to previous years when I just told them about myself right away. There were cheers, claps, and sighs as they found out each of the answers with a Powerpoint I created showing corresponding pictures. After that, I had them create their own quiz, just like the Math=Love blogger. I decided to make it number answers only for the first few classes, but realized many of the answers were really hard for me to guess correctly and I would be learning about their lives wrong. So, for my afternoon classes I let them do word answers or numbered answers. I loved completing their quizzes; It gave me an insight into who they were and it gave me an authentic chance to practice their names on the second day of school by passing back papers (I’m still so bad at names…gotta keep practicing!!) In almost every class, several students asked about the quizzes with questions like, “did you do our quizzes yet…I can’t wait to see if you got mine right…” Clearly, this was a memorable activity for many and not boring…success! 🙂

Monday (first day of school part 2): After completing our quizzes, I explained our last activity: 31-derful. I found this activity from another favorite blogger: “Everybody is a Genius.” I displayed the same instructions she did and then let them go for it in groups. I loved seeing and hearing their thought processes with their groups. It gave me an insight into their problem solving and communication skills. Every class had 1-2 groups complete the puzzle and the other group were super close! Just like the activity above I knew this one was successful because on Tuesday (and Wednesday) several kids came into class asking if they could play the game again saying it was so fun!


Tuesday (part 1): I saved setting rules and going over the syllabus for the second day because I didn’t want to rush through either one and I knew the first day class times would be shortened. Normally, when going over my own rules and setting classroom norms I have done a chalk talk. I like chalk talks, but students don’t understand the value of silence during this activity, and it’s hard for me to facilitate without saying to stay quiet every 5 seconds when they are hyped up from the first days of school. So, I thought I’d save introducing chalk talks for later in the year…or maybe one of my fabulous colleagues will do one before me and be better at keeping them quiet :). Instead, I did a four corners activity to facilitate setting classroom norms. I loved how this went for several reasons: It got students up and moving, but in a structured way. Also, as we discussed agreements and disagreements, students were standing, which at first I thought might be a little chaotic, but in every class, they actually listened really well while standing…somehow it made them more self aware to who was talking and what they were saying. I also liked hearing students voice their opinions about how they learn best. I think students felt safe sharing how they felt because they often had someone else beside them that felt a similar way.

Tuesday (part 2): After we set norms and before we went over the syllabus, we jumped into a discussion of our summer assignment (a reflection about their own math understanding after reading the freshmen assigned book, Bamboo People). With the suggestion from a fabulous colleague, I used a Microlab protocol to facilitate discussion. This went well because it gave all students a chance to speak while keeping the conversation flowing in a productive manner.

Wednesday: We started the day with a WODB warm up that I’m going to do this every Wednesday…I love this activity! With it, students had a chance to communicate their thinking while producing some really interesting debates. In geometry, I used “shape 5” which gave students some new language and facts that they will be using later in geometry such as a dodecagon, polygon requirements, and composite figure. In algebra, I used “number 1” and a couple students gave an argument for something I didn’t even see…9 didn’t belong because all the others made 7 when you added together their digits. After the warm up, geometry played TGT to review algebraic concepts before moving on to geometry (I’ve posted about this game before). All students were engaged in this game because it was competitive, but safe. I think having students choose their comfort level with the material helped them feel at ease and confident in their competition teams. In Algebra we completed a KWL chart with a preview to their first quiz. I think this helped set the tone for why they need to know what they will be learning the next few weeks. Then, we reviewed patterns by doing this lesson. It was a great, low prep activity that helped students review patterns and formulate their own thinking without me directly telling them the sequence. The next couple days we did some book work from our Springboard textbook. I am really liking the reading required from the textbook, but I realized I need to work on my facilitation of teaching from a textbook (this is my first year directly using one). I’m not going to use it every single day, but definitely more than I ever have in the past because I think it is a really good resource for STAAR type of materials.

Friday: After taking some notes and doing practice on Thursday about points, lines, and planes, geometry played this sketch game. It was great to hear students communicate their learning again to each other. Many were saying the process was so hard, but kept at it and saw that the more specific they were, the more accurate their partner’s drawing would be. Algebra had their first “standards check” before moving on to non linear patterns. Geometry will have one Monday. I think the format of the SBG checks are going to be really good for myself and students. I especially love having students know exactly what their learning goal is and having them self assess their learning.

One last highlight: So far, students are doing really well with my grading breakdown of homework/classwork counting for 0%. I know it’s only been one week of school, but students seem less concerned about what counts for a grade and whenever I assign a task to complete, they all jump into it knowing it’s for them to practice their learning…hopefully the rest of the year follows the same way!!

I’m so thankful for all the great resources I’ve found through other blogs and am ready to take on the second week with a little finalizing of plans tomorrow…for now, time to relax! 🙂

Two More Review Games to Try Out

We played two different review games this week in Algebra II and Geometry. I gladly give credit to the two blogs hyperlinked throughout this post after seeing my students highly engaged and excited to do math practice with the addition of these two games.

Featured imageThe first game is one I call “The Laundry Game” and we played it before a geometry quiz. This game can be applied to any content and any grade level even though I actually found it on a 3rd grade blog. I love this game because it takes a normal review and adds movement, competition, and immediate feedback. My intern and I were talking about how changing the format of a routine review into this game makes students do so many more problems than they normally would. I changed it up a bit by providing the answers at each station rather than having students come to me to check. That way they could check their own work and then the teacher could be facilitating and answering questions. At the end, we drew their names from the buckets, awarded prizes, and then explained the reasoning behind the name, “The Laundry Game.” We told them when they go home that night, they will find the problems they need to review again in their pockets with their laundry! Featured image

The second game we played is a BINGO game that I found here. We played this as addition to a normal practice day. I have seen and played BINGO before in the classroom, but I love how this one gives choice to students and the downloadable file is already made for you to give to students…so easy! My students LOVED this…after the first student won, several kids shouted out, “can we keep playing?!” Little did they know, they were implying, can we keep practicing logs!! FullSizeRender (3)


I am always looking for new review games to use before a quiz or a test. This year, we have played Team-Games-Tournament (TGT) several times and have had great success with student mastery and engagement. This game is a cooperative learning strategy that is discussed further in “The Strategic Teacher” by Silver, Strong, and Perini. In their book, they explain the reasons why this strategy works with the number one reason being that “TGT incorporates the best of cooperation and competition.” Furthermore, it “highlights interdependence among group members, holds students individually accountable…promotes positive face-to-face interaction, builds small-group skills such as communication and conflict resolution, and encourages group processing so that students use their reflections to become better team members.” There is a bit of prep work on the teacher before hand to possibly reformat your review, create the playing cards, and make color-coded copies (my interns wonderful suggestion) for each role, but it proves very worthwhile. As compared to other review games that require the teacher to reteach or be the leader, this game is student centered and the teacher can now simply be a facilitator while students take ownership in playing, coaching, and teaching each other.

I typically give students a review sheet for the test the day before we are going to play the tournament. I give them some class time and/or assign the evens for homework. By only doing half, students are familiar with the material, but still need to review more the next day. The following day during the tournament, they will complete all the review questions. When they draw one they have already done they are instructed to do it again on a whiteboard (or a scratch piece of paper), whereas when they draw an odd question they should do it on the actual review. This gives them repetition of review and complete mastery of the content. The first time using this strategy, students will need the directions read to them and seen posted on the board. However, after a few rounds, the game becomes very clear and natural. I have loved watching students coach each other through the work while also competing with positive interactions.

Here are some directions that you can display for students as well as teacher notes to further clarify. Let me know if you play and what you thought!

Teams Games Tournament

Reference: Silver, Harvey F., Richard W. Strong, and Matthew J. Perini. The Strategic Teacher. Alexandria: ASCD, 2007. Print.